With the hyper-violent, taut thriller Hounds of Love, Perth-born filmmaker Ben Young has marked himself on the world stage as a force to be reckoned with, after his film premiered in Venice last night.
Immediately Hounds of Love announced itself as a real crime drama placing itself in Dec ‘87 in Perth. However true it isn't. It’s the product of Young’s vivid imagination and his ability to draw on real life cases. Like so many of the films in Venice this year, the women take centre stage, leaving those '80s suburban blokes in their tank tops for dead.
An almost unrecognisable Emma Booth is remarkable as Evelyn, half of a serial killer couple, as is the ever-reliable Susie Porter as her mum. Stephen Curry bravely plays Booth’s partner John, a total creep of a man, while 17-year-old Ashleigh Cummings as their next intended victim puts up one hell of a fight, more with brains than brawn.
Why did you write this story?
I grew up in the city in which it’s set and that was the time when Western Australia lost its innocence in so many ways. Also if you’re writing a thriller, it’s really difficult to set one nowadays because you have mobile phones and all those kinds of things, so it made the writing a lot easier by putting it in the '80s, plus it gave me the opportunity to use some music that I like and grew up listening to. (Brutality and lust combined with "Knights in White Satin" is hugely effective.) Also the film was really, really low budget and so much of Western Australia was built in the '80s and it looks exactly the same as it did then. So it’s a cheap way to give the film an aesthetic.
Why is it named after the Kate Bush song?
I like to write to music. I found everything I could find from that era and I heard that song and her strong female voice really moved me. It also had the kind of mood that I want to create in the film as it’s talking about love. I tried to get the rights to the song, but it would have ended up being 20 percent of the budget of the film.
Did you base it on a real story?
When I was researching for the film, I read a book about female killers and a lot of true crime books. I found nine cases of couples who have committed crimes similar to this around the world, so I researched all of those stories, but I didn't borrow any of the real events for the film. I looked at them to get a better understanding of the people who become involved in these crimes. And then I made the rest up!
You have conceded an upbeat kind of ending after all the violence.
I wanted some hope. I can’t be that Godless.
There had been quite a few walkouts before then. Were you expecting them?
Who’s going to go and see the movie in Australia?
People who like this kind of movie.
People who like 'Snowtown'?
Yeah I think so. All I really know about films is everyone always asks about the audience. I go to the cinema all the time and I go with a group of people who all have the same tastes as me. So I made the film for me and for them.
How did you prepare for the role?
Mentally I had to do quite a lot of preparation. Unfortunately I know a guy who’s a bit like John so I had lots to draw on there.
Physically I had to undergo a huge transformation. I spent two hours in hair and makeup every day, I wore dark contact lenses, I put on about seven kilos, my face had an aged look, I wore a half wig and I had fake teeth. In the nude scene there was a lot of CGI – they weren’t my boobs! – and I had a fake Caesarean scar. Besides that, it was just really bad clothing.
I must admit the day before I got into the role, I thought, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” I was freaking out. But the minute I got to Evelyn it just all came. I was able to change the way I spoke, the way I walked, the way I laughed. She just came out of me organically.
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What's it about?
When 16-year-old Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is introduced to a charismatic man, a friendship begins. As the relationship grows so do Jamie's suspicions, until he finds his world threatened by both his loyalty for, and fear of, his newfound father figure, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall): Australia's most notorious serial killer.